Practicum Recap: Valery Abila
I love practicum, and I'm so sad it's over! This semester, I completed my second practicum at Blackridge Elementary in the Jordan District in a 3rd-grade classroom, and it was so much fun!
For those of you who aren’t too familiar with what practicum is, practicum is practice. It's time for those who are preparing to become educators to learn from a mentor teacher and practice teaching in a real classroom. Check out our FAQ video to learn more about practicum!
1. Learn to adjust and be flexible!
In practicum, you write lesson plans for everything you teach. At the start of this practicum semester, I felt like I needed to follow my lesson plan exactly how I planned it. I was not willing to tweak anything or adjust my lesson while I was teaching it. Eventually, I learned that sometimes, kids need you to model how to do something a couple more times than you originally planned. And sometimes an activity took less (or maybe more) time than you planned. Maybe the way you worded something didn't really make sense, so you have to go back and reteach it in a different way. So many things can come up when you're actually teaching your lesson that you didn't plan for. That's why you have to be willing to adjust. At the end of the day, what's most important is that your students learn, and if you need to make adjustments to make that happen, that's okay! Learn to be flexible and roll with change!
2. Third-graders are still great!
I've always known that I wanted to teach in the lower elementary grades, so I was a little nervous because I imagined 3rd graders (and older) as big, sassy kids who think they are adults. However, I learned that 3rd graders are still little kids, who care about others and want to learn! They get excited when they see you and still want your attention. I thought it would be hard to develop relationships with them because I imagined that they would not want to open up to me, but it was the complete opposite. I got to know them very well as I worked with them, which made it so hard to leave!
3. Don't be afraid to try new things... but do make sure to set expectations!
This semester, my goal was to take more initiative and incorporate things that my mentor teacher might not use that often in my lessons. My mentor teacher had never used Nearpod in her class, but I chose to use it for a social studies lesson. I will admit, I was a little nervous beforehand because my students had never used Nearpod. I thought that it might create classroom management problems or kids would use their Chromebooks to do other things. However, I made sure to set my expectations for using the Chromebooks and everything went smoothly. The kids were engaged, and they loved learning social studies in a new way! The moral of the story is, just because your mentor teacher does things in a certain way, doesn't mean you have to do it that same way. Try new things and see what works. Learn from your experiences so you know what you would want and don't want when you have your own classroom!
4. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are so helpful!
A PLC is a team of teachers who share ideas to enhance their teaching practice and create a learning environment where all students can reach their fullest potential. The 3rd-grade team met on Wednesdays while the kids were at specials. They collaborated to organize intervention groups for reading and math throughout the grade, create end-of-unit assessments together, and share ideas on how to teach different standards. Seeing how the 3rd-grade teachers on my team work together and bounce ideas off of each other helped me see how important it is to have a team that works together and supports each other! It really makes a big difference to have that support system.
5. Be yourself!
Doing this will make it easier to form connections with your students. Allow them to get to know you. Answer the random questions they have for you. For some reason, they will really want to know your age and your first name. Crack a joke every once in a while. Taking two seconds to answer a question they have about or to say something funny might not have a huge impact on what is being taught that day, but it will have a big impact on your relationships with them. Students are forgiving. They will overlook your mistakes if they know you care about them. What matters for students is that you are passionate and will do anything to help them learn. They know when you genuinely care about them, trust me! If you can do this, they will be more willing to listen, work hard to go the extra mile, and even try to earn your respect and attention.
If you have any questions or concerns about practicum, schedule an appointment with a student ambassador here!